Care Package Surprise: Cake in a Jar

cake-570x200

Are you looking for a way to send home baked goods to your servicemember without risking them spoiling or turning into nicely wrapped packages of crumbs? I have the perfect solution for you: cake in a jar.

Never heard of it? I hadn’t either.

Maybe I’ve been living under some sort of rock where awesome care package items are not allowed. But thanks to the internet and a recent care package project, I’ve finally gotten with the program. Yesterday I made a batch just so I can walk you through it.

How to Make Cake in a Jar for Care Packages

You may have seen the super cute and yummy jar cakes floating around pinterest and thought “Yes! I shall make and send that!” They have layers of delicious icing and whipped cream spilling out of them. And they look amazing.

But those are not the kinds of cakes you want to send overseas in a jar. I’m betting the icing wouldn’t be quite as delicious after several weeks in a box. For this care package treat we’ll leaving the icing seperate.

1. Gather your ingredients

supplies

Here’s what you’ll need:

— 1 cake mix (or more if you want to make several different flavors as I did).

— Wide mouth, pint sized mason jars. These are the perfect height for the large flat rate USPS boxes.

— 1 can of frosting (or more if you want to include options). You’ll add this to the box when it’s time to pack it.

— Plastic knives and forks for eating/spreading frosting.

— Ribbon to make the whole thing attractive.

 

Ready … set … go!

2. Wash your mason jars.

clean-jars

We don’t want unsanitary jars — so make sure you wash them with soap and hot water.

3. Mix your ingredients.mixing

Follow the mixing instructions on the box.

While you’re doing this, turn your oven on to heat to 400 degrees. The box probably says “350 degrees.” Ignore that and obey only me.

4. Grease your jars.

greasing

Using whatever spray you have on hand (I had the kind that smells like hot popcorn. Yum.) coat the inside of each jar. This will allow the cake to slide out later.

5. Put the batter in the jars.

fill

Fill each jar about half way full to leave room for the cake to rise.

6. Bake those bad boys.

bake

Place your jars in a 9×13 baking pan to make it easier to put them into the oven and take them out. This will also keep you from being a total klutz like I am and knocking them over. I can use all the help I can get.

Put the pan with the jars in the oven.

Set your timer to 30 minutes.

Godspeed, jars of delicious cake!

7. Boil your lids.

caps-in-water

While you’re waiting for the cake to do its baking thing, prep your lids. You want to do this for two reasons: It’ll make sure they are sanitary and heating the wax on the lid is what will let the jar seal later.

Place just the lids (NOT the rings — just the lids) in a pot of water, set it on the stove and heat it until boiling. Then turn it off. This primes the lids for sealing on the jars.

8. Remove cake from the oven.

done

Check to make sure it’s done by inserting a butter knife or something else long and smooth into the middle. Not done? Leave them in for a few more minutes and check again.

Done? Take them out.

Don’t worry if the cake has risen beyond the mouth of the jar like it did for me. It’s not going to be a problem.

9. Put the lids on the jars.

lids-done

As soon as you take the cakes out of the oven start putting the lids on.

To do this you’ll want to grab some tongs so that you can pull each lid out of the water while keeping the other ones hot.

Pull a lid out. Dab the bottom with a towel to make sure it’s dry.

Holding the hot mason jar with a hot pad (safety first, y’all), place the hot lid on top of the jar. Grab a ring and screw the lid down. If the cake is higher than the top of the jar just smash it down as you screw the lid on.

cakes-with-lids

 

10. Let them cool.

As the jars cool you may hear a little “pop.” That’s the sound of the lid sealing. You may also note the cake pulling away from the side of the jar, too. No worries, that’ll just make it easier to slide out later.

A note on canning sanitation: these are not just like twinkies that you can keep on your shelf forever. They are sealed well enough to make it fresh to the ‘Stan or wherever your servicemember is. But I wouldn’t hold on to them for months on end or anything like that.

11. Decorating time!

cake-with-sign

I picked-up a spool of patriotic ribbon from Hobby Lobby, some twine and some little labels.

Using my hot glue gun I secured ribbon around each jar, added the tag and then tied the twine in place.

Think your servicemember doesn’t need the tag? Skip it.

cake-stacked

 

12. Package it.

jar-in-box

 

What we really don’t want is for the jars to break in shipping.

I lined the bottom of my box with a few folds of bubble wrap. I then folded a line of bubble wrap in half and wrapped it around each jar. Since that didn’t look very fancy, I wrapped a little ribbon around the outside of the bubble wrap.

13. Stuff the box with the rest of the cake kit.

ready-to-ship

 

Since I made several kinds of cake, I wanted to include several kinds of frosting options.

Four jars of cake, forks and knives and some icing, and the person getting this box should consider himself well fed.

About the Author

Amy Bushatz
Amy is the editor in chief of Military.com’s spouse and family blog SpouseBuzz.com. A journalist by trade, Amy also covers spouse and family news for Military.com where she is the managing editor of spouse and family content. An Army wife and mother of two, Amy has been featured as a subject matter expert on CNN.com, NPR, Fox News, NBC, CBS, ABC and BBC as well as in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. Follow her on twitter @amybushatz.

38 Comments on "Care Package Surprise: Cake in a Jar"

  1. sabrinacking | July 29, 2013 at 9:41 am |

    I am a lifelong canner, and am not entirely sure this would be shelf stable In the desert heat. But its a nice idea.

  2. I also wrote a tutorial (linked in my name above) on how to do this back in December 2010. I sent jar cakes to my husband during his entire Afghanistan deployment and he and the guys he worked with loved it.

  3. I've made these for years, I don't think once they get to the desert they will last very long as they will get scarfed up very quick! This also works great for banana , zucchini or other desert breads!

  4. I've made these, too! Hubby loved them!!!

  5. Ugh! I really needed to see this two months ago when I was trying to figure out how to get a birthday cake to Afghanistan! I am bookmarking this page for the next deployment!

  6. I made these for my son-in-law on his last deployment and they were well received! He even stashed a few in a refrigerator for a soldiers birthday! He leaves again soon and they will go back into production!

  7. Not entirely sure this is safe, when I asked around if anyone else had done this I got this reply “Yes, I have done this. BUT… you cannot preserve cake like that. If you are going to make them, let them cool and then put the lids on. If you seal them like that, the cake becomes a breeding ground for botulism poising and can make you really sick. Cake is most and warm and there is not enough acid in it to preserve like regular canned goods. That being said, you can cook cake in a jar. If you keep the lid on, it will stay good for about a week. Yeah, so I never "can" my cakes. But I have sent mason jar cakes to my husband and brother, and they ate them and said they were good. Just don't try to preserve it.” http://extension.psu.edu/food/preservation/news/2

  8. L. Stewart | July 30, 2013 at 7:38 pm |

    I've never made these myself but I have eaten canned cakes made by others. Most of those were "from scratch" recipes with various types of liquor added, which possibly acted as a preservative in addition to adding flavor. They were very moist and yummy…and some were several months old when opened and eaten.

  9. Working for the Postal Service I have seen a lot of things mailed to servicemen. One great tip. Put jar wrapped in bubble wrap and then in a metal can. Just a little more security…

  10. wisnavymom | July 30, 2013 at 8:33 pm |

    I had a friend who used to make jar cakes professionally. He’d seal them while still hot, and they were shelf-stable for up to a year. But the jars have to be sterile – not just “clean” – for the cakes to be safe to eat in the long term. (Boiling the jars and lids like you do to sterilize them for canning will do it.)

  11. blendedstitch | July 30, 2013 at 8:45 pm |

    Okay, first off, i've been doing this for YEARS. A few problems with sealing the jars while the cake is hot… it MOLDS. Between my husband and multiple friends who have been deployed we came to the conclusion that you don't have to seal the jars. They aren't going to sit around once they arrive they will be eaten! My husband shares his with his squad and I also send breads this way.

    You can seal the jars but they can't just be clean, they have to be sterile just as if you were canning. Also, cool the cakes first so you aren't trapping in the moisture from the heat.

    If you are wondering. YES! A lot of the people who receive these reuse the jars around the "camps". From hair clips for the gals and random every things from the guys.

  12. My worst package was my husbands 1st deployment, when trying to save money I tried to stuff everything all in one box, but by doing so my husband said all the food items smelt & tasted like the soap &softener sheets ,he had to throw all the food away.

  13. i did this for my brother-in-law while he was in afginistan except i used baby food jars (my son was eating baby food at the time and i had so many left over glass jars and nothing to do with them) i boiled the lids and did everything the same and he loved them and there was plenty to share. he said it was the perfect amount in the baby food jar, like eating a cupcake

  14. Plain pop corn makes a wonderful packing material also and is alot cheaper than bubble wrap.

  15. If you ladies could see the tears on this old Corpsman’s desk as I typed this reply you would know that no words can express the love you feel when you’re thousands of miles from the ones you love and receive not only goodies, but, before you can even consider eating the cake/bread… you close your eyes and just hold it, and imagine being there with you. Well gals ya got me tearing up again. God bless you and your families and may He bring all our troops home soon! !!!

  16. carol Vavrek | August 2, 2013 at 5:02 pm |

    I also have a easy treat for our troops if they have a microwave available..
    It's called a 3,2,1 cake.
    Mix DRY Angel Food Cake Mix Powder in Lge zip lock bag with any other box of cake mix (I used Choc. mix) Shake well to blend DRY ingredients. Take 3 Tabls. of mixed dry ingredients, place in coffee mug, Add 2 Tabls. water, stir well, and cook for 1 min in Microwave. 3 2 1 !!! All done, with or wthout frosting.

  17. Amy Maroszek | August 3, 2013 at 7:07 am |

    I am currently deployed to Afghanistan, and I am asked all the time, what do you want or need? I tell them, home baked goods. I can always buy snacks at the PX but I miss home baked cookies, brownies, cakes. You don't know how much you miss it until you cant get any for a long time. This sounds like a great idea and when I get back I am going to make it a family project with my girls send cakes to deployed soldiers. Thanks for the idea.

  18. Shannon Winkler | August 3, 2013 at 9:17 am |

    My husband retired from the Navy. He was in afghanastan (sp) for awhile. Where do I get the addresses so I can send stuff to Soldiers?

  19. Thank you for this detailed instruction on baking cakes in a jar!!! I am getting ready to make my first cake in a jar and needed this information badly. My fiancé is stationed over seas and I want to send him a birthday cake. I wanted to send him one all dressed up in a jar along with some other "goodies" in his box. I am SOOOO excited!! I am going to make one first and try it before I make his birthday cake.
    This is an awesome idea for our service men/ women and I'm sure they enjoy it very much!!!!!

  20. Wait I thought that it was terrible to do box cakes because some people tell me from scratch cakes present and taste better also that way you don't have to grease the jars.

  21. Do you need to put any water in the larger pan? other people say you should so the bottom of the jar does not burn or burn the cake.

  22. I followed directions just like you did and when my son got them 11 day later they were molded. I hear them seal also. So what did I do wrong? I made brownies in a jar and they were just fine!

  23. i have a question my husband is on deployment and he is on a boat for most of the time he will be deployed. would this be a good idea to send on the boat?

  24. This is the ABSOLUTE BEST!!!!! THANK YOU SOOOOO MUCH!!!!!

  25. AWESOME!!!!!! Thank you

  26. karen pierce | November 2, 2013 at 8:53 pm |

    I think I wil try this! Sounds so easy.

  27. This is awesome. My friend is stationed overseas an I would love to surprise him with cakes in a jar. He will be so excited. Thank you for the step by step picture instructions it helps so much.

  28. Thanks so much for this post. I can all the time, and I noticed "7. Boil the lids." It is vital to NOT boil the lids, as they could overheat and not seal properly. Additionally, if anyone wants to sterilize the jars to ensure against botulism, you could do that by washing and rinsing the jars and placing them in the oven @ 200 degrees. The jars are sterile when there is no water in them. I do this because it is a hassle to boil the jars.

  29. MoMtotheMarines | November 17, 2013 at 10:35 pm |

    I baked my cakes in a jar by following the directions above (great job on the directions!), as I sit here and wait to let the jars cool down, I notice condensation forming. I see this has happened to a few people. I mistakenly bought regular mouth jars rather than wide mouth jars, I wonder if that is the reason for some people getting condensation and mold while others are not. Thoughts? Opinions?

  30. I know there can be issues with being shelf stable for these kinda things. The solution is not to use eggs.

    Egg Substitute Using Gelatin

    Recipe:
    1 egg = 1 tsp gelatin, 3 Tbs cold water and 7 tsp boiling water
    2 eggs= 2 tsp gelatin, 1/3 C. cold water and 1/2 C boiling Water
    3 eggs= 1 Tbs gelatin, 1/2 C. cold water and 1/2 C Boiling water

    Before Baking:
    1. Place, cold water in bowl
    2. Sprinkle gelatin to soften. Mix thoroughly with spoon.
    3. Add boiling water until desolved.
    4. Place in freezer to thicken while mixing cake or cookies or refrigerate
        (refrigeration takes a little longer)
    5. When time to add eggs, take thickened gelatin from freezer or refrigerator and beat until it's frothy.. <———- THIS IS MOST IMPORTANT!!

    6. Add to recipe instead of eggs.

  31. How does this work with wide-mouth squat jars? This would make an individual serving, per se. How much time do I decrease in cooking?
    Thanks

  32. Marsha Atchison | January 21, 2014 at 12:26 pm |

    How many jars to one cake mix?

  33. So one of the guys I worked with got these from his wife and was nice enough to share and they were AWESOME…well a few MONTHS later we found one that we had hid away….well like the silly sailors we are we popped open the lid and dug in….it was still ok, i'm not going say great but still better than the crud onboard. And for those afraid of bacteria…well none of us got sick.

  34. Could you mail these any time of year? I'd send mine to Afghanistan in July :/ I'm worried it might be so hot, even if they were sealed properly they'd still spoil

  35. Thank you! Thank you! My son just got the package I sent him for his birthday with these in it and they were a hit! It took 1 week for them to arrive and he said they were great!!!

    Happy momma being able to celebrate his birthday with him even though we are separated by so many miles!!!

  36. This is the first time for me to try doing this and I have never canned before. I followed the directions completely. Firstly, I filled pint size jars half full. All of them cooked well beyond the jar, one almost touching the top of the oven – lol! The box said cook 14 to 19 minutes but these instructions said to bake 30 min. I set it for 20 to check early. The tops are a bit burned. :(. Then I already had the lids boiled and hot. I pulled out the jars grabbed the lids with tongs thinking I might still have to cut some of the cake away on a few because they were so high! Then suddenly they all collapsed in before I could get all the lids on. So now there's plenty of room in there – they look like a large terd in a jar. Definitely not filling the jar – like half way up. Epic fail. LOL. Not sure what I did wrong. Any advise out there!!! I'm kind of frustrated with it even though it's also kind of hilarious!

  37. when do the custom form what do you write on it for the cake in a jar?

  38. Kelly Whitaker | February 10, 2015 at 12:11 pm |

    Please remove this post. Why take the chance of harming our troops? This article is from the National Center For Home Food Preservation… http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/uga/uga_can_bre

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